Mathematics Multiverse News

Skeptical mathematician on the decade’s biggest change in physics

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Peter Woit, surveying a decade of his blog, Not Even Wrong, on physics and cosmology, offers,

The discovery of the Higgs has been a wonderful vindication of the ideas and techniques of high energy physics, both experimental and theoretical. As we learn more about the Higgs the lesson seems to be that this sector of the Standard Model behaves in the simplest way possible. This is a significant new piece of information about nature, although a frustrating one since it doesn’t provide a hint of how to improve the Standard Model.

Sure, but the good news is, when we do get information, it will likely be typical science information, not “this’ll-blow-yer-mind” stuff.

On the whole though, I fear that thinking about changes over the last ten years mostly puts me in a not very good mood. Some of the depressing developments and trends of the last ten years are:

• One reaction to string theory’s failures in the marketplace of ideas has been a Russian billionaire’s decision to try and manipulate that marketplace by injecting tens of millions of dollars into it on one side. The largest financial prize in science now is devoted to each year rewarding people for work on a failed project. This is corrupting the marketplace in a significant way.

• Some of my earliest postings back in 2004 were about KKLT, the string landscape and the multiverse. At the time I was sure that if the landscape proposal being pushed by the Stanford group became widely accepted as an implication of string theory unification, that would be the end of it. Surely no sensible person would try and argue for an extremely complicated, inherently unpredictive theoretical framework. Boy, was I wrong. As I’ve gone on about far too often here, the current multiverse mania is a disastrous and shameful episode for fundamental theoretical physics, threatening its essential nature as a science.

The rest of the piece and the comments are most interesting.

It’s not clear to many of us that proponents of the multiverse want cosmology to be a science at all. Consider the BBC story, “Is the multiverse detectible?” What emerges is, for all practical purposes, no, but that isn’t going to stop proponents.

The story should have been titled “Why do people think an undetectible state of affairs is science?” The fact that the BBC would not develop such a story tells us what we need to know already: The multiverse is a cause, a desire, a hope, a quest a crusade. It threatens physics to the extent that people are encouraged to hunt and peck for evidence for a multiverse, rather than just follow evidence where it leads.

See also: Science-Fictions-square.gif The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology), for a brief explanation of how we got here.

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One Reply to “Skeptical mathematician on the decade’s biggest change in physics

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to the discovery of the Higg’s boson, it is interesting to note that Dr. Craig used the example of Peter Higg’s mathematical prediction of the Higg’s boson itself, which Peter Higg’s had made 3 decades before it was discovered by the LHC, as a philosophical proof for Theism:

    Mathematics and Physics – A Happy Coincidence? – William Lane Craig – video

    1. If God did not exist the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.
    2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    William Lane Craig on the unexpected applicability of mathematics to nature – 11/13/13

    “Geometry is unique and eternal, a reflection from the mind of God. That mankind shares in it is because man is an image of God.”
    – Johannes Kepler

    “Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.”
    Alfred Russell Wallace, New Thoughts on Evolution, 1910

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: ,,certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,
    It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.,,,
    The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.

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